The OFF Act will mandate a swift and just transition to clean energy

This week, as scores of Texans evacuated from Hurricane Harvey had yet to return to their homes, and as the wind and rain from Hurricane Irma still whipped through the Southeast, President Trump’s homeland security advisor Tom Bossert said, “We continue to take seriously the climate change, not the cause of it, but the things that we observe.” Similarly, EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittMy freedom is on the line to fight climate change, more will follow Sessions: DOJ prohibited from issuing guidance that creates new rules Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog MORE said it’s “insensitive” to talk about climate change as people face these disasters. These comments are no surprise: Trump has dismissed fossil fuel-driven climate change as a hoax, and stacked his administration with a who’s-who of oil and gas industry backers intent on maximizing corporate profits from dirty energy – our environment, our climate, our public health and safety be damned. 

It’s clearer than ever that our climate has already been significantly altered by decades of fossil fuel carbon emissions. Storms are stronger and more frequent. Wildfires rage year-round. Polar regions are melting away, as global temperatures climb at an alarming rate. But if we act quickly and decisively to curb carbon emissions now, we stand a good chance of avoiding the worst effects of climate catastrophe. And we’ve got a real plan to do it. All we need now is the public and political will to act.

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Recently Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard is no snowflake Texas shooting puts scrutiny on military's criminal reporting system Overnight Defense: Details on 2 billion compromise defense bill | Space Corps dropped from bill | Mattis requests probe into Texas shooter's records MORE (D-Hawaii) introduced the strongest, most comprehensive climate and energy legislation ever written: The Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, or the “OFF Act.” Among other things, this bill would mandate a full switch to 100 percent clean, renewable energy in America by 2035, with 80 percent of that transition coming in the next decade. The latest science indicates that this aggressive timeline is critical to avoiding no-turning-back climate chaos.

As the planet steadily warms, science indicates we will trigger various climate ‘tipping points,’ that would cause dramatic, irreversible impacts on the planet, many of which will be triggered at global temperature rises well below 2°C; we have blown past 1°C of warming already. In 2010, the International Panel on Climate Change found that we have a two-thirds chance of avoiding a 1.5°C rise in temperature if we keep carbon dioxide emissions below 400 gigatons. At our current rate of about 40 gigatons of carbon dioxide emitted each year, the planet will exceed the critical 400 gigaton threshold in only five years.

Simply put, to save the planet, we must take action quickly. As the historical worst offender in climate-damaging emissions, the United States must lead the way, with or (obviously) without Trump’s involvement. The OFF Act is the vehicle by which we can and must embark on a clean energy revolution, now.

While mandating a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy, the OFF Act would propel a bold agenda for addressing the crisis – one that will protect vulnerable communities while creating scores of well-paying jobs in emerging sectors like wind and solar power, infrastructure resiliency and energy efficiency. This agenda would prioritize racial and economic justice, and would ignore false-promise carbon pricing and trading programs, which are nothing more than pay-to-pollute schemes backed by Wall Street speculators and fossil fuel polluters themselves.

Along the way, the OFF Act would ban fracking, the inherently dangerous oil and gas extraction method that poses serious public health and safety risks in communities where it occurs, and it would place a moratorium on the foolish, profit-driven export of fossil fuels that pushes more and more hazardous fracking and pipeline construction here at home.

Disaster after climate-induced disaster is proving that we can’t fail to address our rampant burning of fossil fuels – too much is at stake. A national grassroots network of activists, elected officials, community leaders and everyday volunteers is building to promote the OFF Act and, in the meantime, enact similarly aggressive rules and regulations at the local level: town by town, city by city, and state by state. Already, nearly 300 organizations and more than 100 elected officials from across the country have endorsed the OFF mission – and we’ve only just begun to organize. 

Ultimately, moving off fossil fuels quickly and justly, while also ensuring economic prosperity for our country, can and must be achieved. It will require big ideas and big investments, not unlike our national mobilization during World War II. We’ve done it before, and we must do it again, now, before it’s too late. We must move off fossil fuels, before our world becomes unlivable.

Wenonah Hauter is executive director of the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch.